copyright (c) 2006, Don Sakers
Hunt for the Dymalon Cygnet
By Don Sakers
The Principles of Universal Worship
I. All faiths are equally valid.
It is right to respect the faith and beliefs of others.
It is right to obey the tenets of ones own faith.
II. All faiths agree that there exists a Divine Universal Guiding
To different faiths, this Priciple has different Names and Attributes.
It is right to respect and venerate the Universal Principle,
under whatever Name.
III. All faiths agree on certain moral canons. To willfully break
these canons is sin.
1. One must honor and respect the Universal Principle.
2. One must honor and respect the faiths and beliefs of others.
3. One must honor, respect, and obey the tenets of ones
4. One must respect and obey those in authority.
5. One must be honest.
6. One must be faithful to ones promises.
7. One must not commit murder.
8. One must not steal.
9. One must not abuse power or authority.
10. One must not cause others needless harm.
Council of Theologians
Colorado Springs, 2048 C.E.
United Nations of North America
August 28, 2068 C.E.
the fire of righteous vengeance wasted town
Horrible it was to see the foundation stones
of towers and high walls thrown down bottom upwards in the squares,
mixing with holy altars and fragments of human bodies.
Gildas, c. 650 C.E.
Lunch is rice with beans and mixed vegetables, half of them reconstituted,
along with plenty of cornbread. She wonders what Jannet Hoister
will have to eat; fancy food at that fancy hotel, most likely.
Certainly better fare than anything here. Probably better than
anything Rita was likely to eat anytime soon.
Too soon, the lunch/socialization period is over. The rest
of the day goes fairly smoothly: Literature/Composition, Physical
Activity & Education, and Cultural Appreciation pass without
incident, and then it is seventeen-fifteen and Rita releases
her charges to go home, or to Evening Socialization until their
parents to pick them up.
Rita goes to the Teachers Lounge to wait. The coffee
is long gone, and cornbread leftover from lunch is going stale.
She nibbles at a piece, more for something to do than from hunger,
washes it down with bottled water from the cooler. A few other
teachers wave at her as they pick up their things and head for
It isnt long before Daisy whispers, Principal
Shamari is ready for you in his office.
Regis Shamaris office is hung with dozens of houseplants
and strategically-placed mirrors, and a miniature fountain gurgles
away atop a credenza; upon entering, Rita always expects to see
errant chickadees darting about the room. For this evenings
meeting, six chairs are arranged in an ostensible circle, flattened
by the rooms geometry so that the effect is of two facing
groups of three, with about two meters between them. The style
is carefully designed to appear casual and non-confrontational,
while still preserving the vital essence of two opposing camps.
Shamari is already seated in the center chair on the right;
David Boyd is seated in the opposite center, flanked by a couple
of adults who are obviously his parents. Rita vaguely remembers
them from earlier conferences.
Shamari half-rises, waving Rita in. Mr. and Ms. Boyd,
this is Ms. Cuervo. Shes Davids teacher. He
nods at the empty chair to his right.
Rita pauses with her hand on the door, shooting Shamari a
questioning glance. He shakes his head. Leave it open for
As Rita passes the Boyds she nods to them, mumbling a greeting.
Poor David seems petrified; she touches his shoulder and gives
him what she hopes is a reassuring smile, then takes her seat.
Shamari clears his throat. Well begin in a few
moments. I want to thank you all for making time for this meeting;
I think youll agree that its very important to get
this matter smoothed out as quickly as possible.
Boyd paterfamilias, a slender balding man who looks like a
greengrocer or possibly a tax accountant, leans forward. Now
see here, Mr. Shamari, I wont have
A knock at the open door stops him. A tall, stocky woman folds
her arms across her chest and frowns, her thick, dark eyebrows
meeting above her nose. She wears a military-looking uniform
in ecclesiatical camouflage. Good afternoon. I am Major
Shamari stands. Thank you for coming, Major.
She brushes past him with a nod. Of course. She
takes the empty seat, sitting the way a soldier stands at attention.
Lets get started, shall we? From a breast pocket,
she produces a pair of dark data-spex and perches them low on
her nose. Over the lenses, her brown eyes flick from one person
to another. Mr. Boyd, Ms. Boyd, young David. Principal
Shamari, Ms. Cuervo. I see that everyone is here.
Mr. Boyd opens his mouth, but Major Platner continues without
any sign of noticing. Denver District Four, Case number
six eight stroke five seven two, Major E. Platner presiding.
All parties are notified that this session is being recorded
in accordance with regulations.
Rita looks from Shamari to Platner and back again. I
I didnt know that this was going to be an official
The Major raises an eybrow. Indeed. There is no hearing
yet. This is merely an investigation into certain allegations.
As an Arm of God for this district, I am required to conduct
an investigation prior to any official hearings or actions.
Her voice carries less emotion than the average vending machines
verbalizations. I assure you that no one is on trial here.
Mr. Boyd sniffs. We know what this is all about. Its
about the government trying to force my boy to say those heathen
prayers in school.
Mr. Boyd, no one will be forced to say anything. Our
goal here is simply to establish the facts. The sooner we get
started, the sooner we can all go home. She turns her attention
to the boy. David, I understand that you have refused to
say class prayers. Is that correct?
David looks at the floor. Only the heathen ones, maam.
And which prayers are those, David?
The boys father opens his mouth, but Platner silences
him with an upheld hand. Please, Mr. Boyd, I must hear
Davids answer so that I can gauge the effectiveness of
his education. She nods. Go ahead, David. Which prayers
are heathen ones?
Ones th-that arent in the Bible.
David, are you familiar with the Principles of Universal
The boy scowls. Why, sure. Im in fourth
Would you mind quoting for me the Second Canon?
In a singsong voice, David quotes, One must honor
and respect the faiths and beliefs of others.
Well done. In order to honor and respect other faiths
and beliefs, you must first learn about them. In order to teach
you about other faiths, we give you the opportunity to experience
their prayers and devotions. Do you understand?
Rita struggles to keep her face impassive. Shes tried
this approach with David; privately, she wishes Platner more
success than shes had.
David shakes his head. The Third Canon says to respect,
honor, and obey the tenets of ones own faith. Baptists
believe its a sin to say heathen prayers.
Platners eyebrows rise perhaps a millimeter. And
where did you learn that fact, young man?
From my parents. The Fourth Canon says
I am aware of the content of the Fourth Canon, and I
must say that you are at this moment treading close to violating
it. She looks to the parents. Mr. and Mrs. Boyd,
I am afraid that the advice you have given David is incorrect.
You have caused him, and yourselves, to commit a grievous violation
of the Canons.
Mr. Boyd can obviously no longer contain himself. Every
word weve told him is true. Were Baptists. We believe
that Jesus is the one true Lord. We cant allow David to
say those heathen prayers.
You are mistaken on several counts. First, your denomination
has ackowledged that the Canons take precedence over sectarian
Thats a matter between us and the Lord.
Regardless, you are mistaken on an even more fun-damental
point. You two are Baptists, but David is not. David will
choose his religious affiliation at his Confirmation. Until then,
he is bound only by the Canons.
Nobodys going to force my boy to say
That is enough, Mr. Boyd. Major Platner turns
to Rita. Ms. Cuervo, do you confirm that this student,
David Boyd, has repeatedly refused to join the rest of his class
in the recitation of assigned prayers?
What could she say? Yes, but
She had to try. In the few months hes been here,
David has always been polite and well-behaved. He completes all
his work satisfactorily. Except for this matter of the prayers,
I have had remarkably few disciplinary problems with him.
Platner gives a single nod. Your remarks have been noted.
Principal Shamari, do you concur with Ms. Cuervos statements?
I do. All of them.
Again the nod. Noted as well. Major Platner looks
off to the left for a moment, then faces the Boyds. This
session is concluded. You will be notified of any further action.
She stands, moving toward the door.
Mr. Boyd pops up, grabs Platner by the arm. Wait a minute
here, you. My family isnt going to be bullied by your officious
Platners other hand moves like a striking rattlesnake,
two fingers closing on Boyds wrist, breaking his grip and
moving his hand out of the way as if it were some distasteful
bit of garbage that had landed on her arm. In the same emotionless
tone, she says, Mr. Boyd, I am professionally required
to show restraint when dealing with civilians. I am not
required to allow my person to be handled, nor to listen to emotional
outbursts and tirades. I am equipped with nonlethal restraining
technology, and I warn you now that I will not hesitate to utilize
it at the next provocation. This session is concluded. If you
have further comments or concerns, I suggest that you take them
up with your minister or other ecclesiastical officials. Good
She strides out, and the door sighs shut behind her.
Boyd crumples to his chair, his face falling into lines of
despair. What are they going to do to us?
For the first time, Mrs. Boyd speaks. Her voice is soft but
strong, her tone defiant. Dont worry, Paul. The Lord
will protect us. What can they do?
They can reduce our ration points. Or eliminate them
altogether. They can transport us to one of the agricultural
settlements. They can try to take David away from us.
Mrs. Boyd puts an arm around David. Nonsense. We have
to have faith. God will provide.
Caitlyn, its faith thats gotten us into
Hush. I wont hear another word like that.
She stands, brushes nonexistent lint from her arm, and takes
Davids hand. Mr. Shamari, Ms. Cuevo, I suppose I
cant say thank you, so Ill just say good
evening to you both. She walks to the door, then looks
back at her spouse. Are you coming, Paul?
Mr. Boyd follows her, glaring at Rita as he passes.
When they are gone, Shamari says to Rita, I know that
its been a very long day for you. I appreciate your staying
for this meeting.
What will happen to them?
He shakes his head. Thatll be up to the authorities.
Its no concern of ours.
Rita nods, and bids him good evening. But in the elevator
on the way to the street, she cant help thinking that hes
A family is about to be punished, maybe transported. And it
is a concern of hers.
When she reaches the school lobby, Daisy says, A bus
will arrive in three minutes. Do you wish to go straight home?
No. She remembers Jannet Hoisters invitation.
Where is the Time-Warner-Sheraton-Hilton?
Lawrence Avenue between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets.
About eight blocks away.
All right. Tell the bus not to bother. Ill walk.
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